14th July, 2020

The Difference Between Site Specific And Generic Risk Assessments

If your health and safety management is being reviewed, you will often be asked for copies of site-specific risk assessments. And one of the reasons risk assessment fail the review is that they are too generic. So what do the terms site-specific risk assessments and generic risk assessments mean?

The Difference Between Site Specific And Generic Risk Assessments header image

We often hear the terms 'site-specific' and 'generic' risk assessments. But what exactly do these terms mean and what category to your risk assessments fall under? By the end of this post, you will know the difference, and how generic risk assessments can be used to create site-specific documents.

Risk assessments are a legal requirement. They are needed by your team to work safely. And clients will often ask for them before you start work. So if the law, your team, and your clients need them, it's fair to say risk assessments are a pretty important health and safety document to get right.

When your health and safety arrangements for a job are being reviewed, you will often be asked for copies of your risk assessments. When you're ready to start work, at this state your risk assessments should be site-specific. This means that they should be specific to the site, and the work you are planning to do. One of the reasons risk assessment fail when they are reviewed is that they are too generic. But what does this mean?

What are generic risk assessments?

Generic risk assessments are risk assessments that are filled in but have not been adapted to a specific site or project. They are completed for a general activity, for example, roofing, but not for the specific roof you are about to work on.

Generic risk assessments are not bad. They can be very useful when used correctly. It might surprise you to know that, when used right, generic risk assessments can help you produce better risk assessments. But it's important to remember they are not the finished product.

Many contractors have folders full of risk assessment templates for their work tasks. These would be classed as generic risk assessments. They may be specific to the task or activity you are carrying out, but they are not specific to a site or project.

Document folders

If generic risk assessments fail reviews, why would contractors keep them?

Because they can help you create site-specific risk assessments! There's nothing wrong with starting from a template, in fact, it's good management practice. Better to have a risk assessment template to work from, then start from scratch each time. It helps you cover all your bases, be consistent, and remind you of the things you need to consider. After all, most of the hazards and risks associated with say, plumbing, will be the same wherever you are working.

But that's most of the hazards and risks, not all of them.

What makes a risk assessment site-specific?

Site-specific risk assessments are risk assessments that have been adapted to a specific site, and only contain relevant information for that particular project. Site-specific risk assessments take into account the actual site conditions and type of project and address only the relevant hazards.

Why?

Well, in the construction industry, your sites are likely to change often. Due to the nature of construction work, you are constantly moving from project to project, and site to site. Once one task is complete, you move on to the next. One week you can be fixing a toilet in an empty residential property, and the next you might be installing a heating system in occupied commercial premises.

And when you change to a new job, the hazards might be different. The work you are doing might be different. The environment you are working in might be different. And your risk assessments need to be updated to assess the risk at the new project or site.

Your generic risk assessments can easily become site-specific, by editing and adapting them to the project you are planning. That's why we have included an online editor with our risk assessment templates - so that the documents you create with HASpod are site-specific for your project.

Read how to create a site-specific health and safety document on HASpod.

Plumbing risk assessment template

You can review the project and site conditions, remove any hazards that don't apply to your work and include any site-specific hazards that have not been addressed in the generic risk assessment.

For example, your plumbing risk assessment template might address the hazard of contact with waste from the removal of sanitary ware. This would be applicable for a project that involved toilet replacement, but would not need to be included on a heating system installation project. You can still use your template for the project, by editing it to add the site-specific information.

Are site-specific risk assessments better than generic ones?

Your finished risk assessment should be site-specific, so as the final document that you send out, yes, a site-specific risk assessment is best. But, often, your site-specific risk assessment will have started out as a generic one.

And just like a finished cake will taste better if you start with good ingredients, it's easier to create a good site-specific risk assessment if you start with a good template to work from.

In the example above, the same plumbing risk assessment template could be adapted for use on two different plumbing projects.

Creating health and safety documents, especially risk assessments which are required for most activities, takes time. There's nothing wrong with using generic risk assessments to help you create site-specific documents for your projects. In fact, often these will help you create a better final document.

Your templates will remind you of the main hazards and the standard controls you need to control them. They will also help you to keep consistency and develop good practice, and they can be changed as needed for each project.

Computer keyboard

The big thing to remember is to make those changes and to create a site-specific risk assessment from your generic template. After all, each project is different and will have mixed safety challenges, even if the type of work you carry out at each location is similar. So review your risk assessment before you start work to make sure only relevant site-specific information is included.

You can keep a copy of your site-specific risk assessments on-site and at the office. And make sure everyone who needs them, sees them. These site-specific documents are the risk assessments you share with your team and send to the client, they are specific to the project.

But don't forget to also keep a copy of your generic risk assessments. You can use these again as a starter for future projects. All your hard work can be used again and again to create more risk assessments.

Find out more about creating site-specific risk assessments with HASpod, and choose from hundreds of risk assessment templates.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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